Is rat safe to eat? In what countries do they eat rats? These are questions that we've seen pop up a lot lately, especially with the possible origins of the current COVID-19 pandemic stemming from the consumption of bamboo rats in Wuhan, China.
But that's not the only place in the world where rat is on the menu. In many places around the globe, rat provides much-needed sustenance. You might be surprised to learn that as long as it isn't diseased, rat isn't the worst thing you could put in your body (from a nutrition standpoint).
According to Neurostew, the nutritional value of a rat is heartier than you would think. An average rat, coming in at about 300g, contains a surprising amount of calories at 648. In addition, it contains about 63g of protein and 33g of fat. Neurostew compares this to 300g of lamb shoulder, interestingly lamb shoulder only provides 402 Calories, 61g of protein, and fewer grams of fat at only 16.
While many of us consider rats to be pests and vermin, in some parts of the world they are a regular item on the menu. In many cases, this is a way of life and tradition that has been handed down for generations. While the rats that people eat can be different species and come from different sources, typically they are wild animals caught specifically for food. People use a variety of traps to catch them, but never poison, as that would contaminate the meat and make it inedible.
Rat Meat For Sale
Rat is a common food in many places in the world and many Asian countries in particular. One reason for this is because they are plentiful and generally easy to come by, so they make a good source of protein for people of all economic levels.
A specific reason for their popularity in Asia stems from the rat's affection for rice. Rice is a mainstay food staple in a vast majority of east and southeast Asian countries, it is also grown agriculturally in large quantities. Rats love to get into the rice fields and eat as much as they can. This diet of rice and a relatively clean environment makes these rodents reasonably wholesome and safe to eat. According to many who eat them, this also makes them plump, tender, and delicious.
The problem with buying rat meat from the market is that there is no way to tell just where it may have come from. It might be a nice, chubby rat from a clean rice field, but it might also be a rat that has grown fat on garbage while living in city sewers. It is up to the customer to try to determine just what they’re buying.
So what countries eat rats? There are more than you would think as it is a viable and plentiful food source in places where a supermarket might not be right around the corner.
United States 🇺🇸
Surprised by the first country on our list? Although most people across the United States have never eaten rat, it is a common practice for bushcraft survivalists to learn how to catch and prepare rat. Even Mousetrap Monday's Shawn Woods has demonstrated how to catch and prepare rat in a survival situation in his video "Cooking and Eating Rats" (WARNING: VIDEO IS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH)
A quick Google search can also return results for American rat recipes such as Rat Jerky from Yuri Hart and Robert Pugh. See below:
Additionally, it is made into a stew in at least one part of the country. The state of West Virginia offers a rat stew as an example of traditional local cuisine. The cleaned, skinned animals are cut up and dropped into a bubbling broth along with wild onions, garlic, and other local vegetables and served at gatherings or as a family dinner. Although it’s not big with everybody in the state, rat stew still finds its way onto West Virginia dinner tables from time to time.
China is a big consumer of rat meat. It is commonly sold raw in Chinese meat markets, and can also be purchased cooked from various shops and street vendors. Some of the markets in China also offer live rats for sale. Buyers can then have the vendor kill and prepare the rat for cooking, or they can take their dinner home while it’s still alive.
Rat meat is offered for sale alongside many other kinds of animals in China’s meat markets. Bats are common, as are snakes, but interested buyers can find almost any kind of meat they want if they go to the right place. Exotic markets carry many kinds of meats you would never find at a shop in the United States.
Rat is prepared in various ways in China. This is partly a matter of personal taste and partly a matter of how many people it must feed. Grilled or barbecued rat is common and is a favorite with many. The rat will be gutted and skinned and then cooked over an open fire, usually with some type of sauce or seasonings applied. Cooked rat is frequently spitted on a long bamboo spear and sold by street vendors for people to eat as they walk.
Some people in China prefer to eat baby rat meat, and they will even eat them alive after dipping them into a sauce to add a favorite flavor. While this practice is not common throughout the Chinese population, it is done by some. Often restaurants specialize in this dish, as they will have rat pups on hand for just this purpose. Chinese meat markets don’t usually have pups on hand, so people wanting to indulge in this kind of a meal have to go elsewhere for their food. This is not advised as the risks of raw meat consumption, especially in rats, could be teeming with bacterial and viral threats.
Another way that the Chinese eat these animals is by cooking them in a stew. There they may be added to other types of meat and vegetables. Everything is cooked until it is tender and then eaten along with the gravy created by cooking.
Thailand 🇹🇭, Vietnam 🇻🇳, and Taiwan 🇹🇼
Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan are other southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia etc... are places where rats are on the menu. In some places, they are trapped and then kept caged until they are sold, but it is also quite common to see people selling cooked rats by the side of a main road that is outside the city limits. Not surprisingly, many roadside stands that sell cooked rat meat are set alongside large rice fields, so it is easy to replenish the supply when the pile of critters runs low.
People frequently buy several of these rodents to take home to eat, often as the main dish in a family meal. They are also sold by street vendors, as in China, as cooked rat skewered on a stick so that it can be carried and eaten easily.
The rat is the centerpiece of a festival menu in one part of northern India, where the Adi tribe celebrates a holiday each year by feasting on a special rat stew. Found in the southern Himilayas, this stew is something that the people there love but that people in other parts of the world might struggle to consume. It contains many rat parts boiled in a big pot and includes the liver, stomach, testes, intestines, fetuses, legs, and tails. Ginger, salt, and chili are added for flavoring. Additionally, rat meat is part of their regular diet as brown rats, house mice or any small rodents they can trap are consumed regularly and roasted or smoked.
People in this part of India claim this stew, and rat meat, in general, is some of the tastiest food one could imagine. They don’t eat it because they have to, they eat it because they want to. Apart from the festival time rat is also consumed by the Adis and by people in many parts of India as a good source of protein.
Rat is a common part of their diet for many of the Aboriginal people in Australia. The cooked rats are typically held over a fire on a stick or spit, but they may also be stewed along with vegetables and sometimes other kinds of meat as well.
New Zealand 🇳🇿 Polynesia 🌴⛵
One country where the rat was consumed traditionally is New Zealand. The Kiore, as it was known to Māori was brought to the island through canoe travelers traversing the Pacific. The Māori, often preserved the Polynesian rat in different types of fat and reserved them for special occasions such as a feast.
Similarly, many rat bones and other evidence of people dining on rat meat has been found throughout Polynesia’s historical sites.
Many countries in Europe, historically consumed rat meat as a part of their normal diet. In parts of Europe people sometimes ate rat pie. This was reported to have been a treat for the rich of France and England and was not consumed by the common folk.
In the wineries of France, the rats that lived in the wine cellars ate grapes and drank spilled wine. These were considered to be extra tasty and were much-desired as additions to the menu. They were usually cooked over open flames made from old wine barrels and enjoyed on the spot.
Different Food In Different Places
Not everybody enjoys eating rats, but the people who do claim the meat is delicious. Tender and tasty, rat meat is usually easy to come by and is a way to add protein to almost any diet. People who enjoy eating rodents advise others to try rat before deciding it isn’t good to eat. It may turn out to be a surprise hit at dinner.